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Simon Wolfgang Fuchs

  • Near Eastern Studies
Position: Graduate Student
Title: 7th-year graduate student
Office: Jones Hall

I enjoyed the pre-reform German university curriculum in the humanities which was void of such fancy ideas like an undergraduate education. This meant an early focus on the Middle East in my two majors, Islamic Studies and Political Science. The system also provided me with the freedom to study in Erlangen, Damascus (Institut français du Proche-Orient), Durham, NC (Duke University), Tehran (International Center for Persian Studies) and, finally, Tübingen. There I wrote my Magister Artium thesis Proper Signposts for the Camp: The Reception of Classical Authorities in the Ǧihādī Manual al-ʿUmda fī Iʿdād al-ʿUdda (Ergon: Würzburg 2011).
My current interests at Princeton still deal with modern negotiations of the Islamic tradition, albeit in its Shiʿi manifestation. More specifically, I am interested in theological and legal debates among Pakistani religious scholars (ʿulama) and the struggle for Shiʿi orthodoxy since the late colonial period. My dissertation, “Debating Shiʿism in 20th and 21st Century Pakistan: Orthodoxy, Reform, and the Limits of the Transnational,” is advised by Prof. Muhammad Qasim Zaman. It traces shifting conceptions of religious authority, the intellectual reception of the Iranian revolution, and the changing nature of sectarianism in South Asia. I pay close attention to transnational links between Pakistan, India, and the Middle East and study how ideas are translated, appropriated, and resisted when they travel between these regions. To gain access to rare materials in Urdu, Persian, and Arabic, extensive fieldwork of 15 months led me to libraries and archives in Pakistan, India, Iraq, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
Together with Mashal Saif (Duke University/Clemson University), I have organized a panel on South Asian ʿulama at the 43rd Annual Conference on South Asia in Madison, WI, in October 2014. I am also a participant in the Princeton/Oxford Collaborative Project “Traditional authority and transnational religious networks in contemporary Shi‘i Islam” and have served as a co-organizer of the first Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium Graduate Student Conference, “'Failure' in Islamic Reform,” in April 2013.
For the academic year 2014/2015, I have been awarded a Dissertation Writing Grant by the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS). I am also a past recipient of a Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation Dissertation Fellowship. With Prof. Muhammad Qasim Zaman I co-taught the course “Muslims and the Qurʾan” and with Prof. Michael Cook “Introduction to the Middle East.” I acted as the Treasurer of Princeton's Graduate Student Government and was involved with Princeton's Prison Teaching Initiative.
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